Bullying Resolution Services is a new venture of Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D., director of Embrace Civility in the Digital Age, as a way to help parents achieve an effective resolution of the more serious or chronic situations where your child is being repeatedly bullied or harassed, the response by the school has not been effective in resolving the situation!
A New Pathway to a Resolution
While many parents and students become frustrated with the response of the principal when serious or chronic situations are reported, too often they may think that nothing more can be done or they do not know how to proceed. Depending on your child’s “status,” there are four possible paths:
- If your child has disabilities and is on an IEP or 504 Plan, the school is required to address this in an IEP or 504 meeting.
- If your child is within a protected class–race, religion, national origin, sexual minority or orientation, disabilities–this constitutes discriminatory harassment under civil rights laws.
- If your child is experiencing sexual harassment, this constitutes a violation of Title IX.
- In all of the above situations–and for any other student who does not fit into one of these categories–it is possible to file a complaint at the district level under Oregon’s bullying prevention statute.
In all except the last situation is present, it is possible to appeal a complaint made at the district level with the Oregon Department of Education. I am going to seek to make changes in Oregon’s bullying prevention statute next legislative session so that an appeal from a district level complaint can be made for these students.
(Note: I am using the term “parent” for anyone who is in a parenting capacity.)
These Bullying Resolution Services have been created to support parents whose children are being bullied or harassed in more serious or chronic situations. My primary focus at this time is assisting parents whose children have disabilities, are being harassed, and the school’s response has not been effective. The response has likely not been effective for the following reasons:
- The principal has not done a comprehensive investigation.
- The intervention plan has not met the civil rights standard of being reasonably calculated to stop the harassment, prevent retaliation, remedy the harmful impact, and correct the environment.
- There was no discussion in an IEP or 504 meeting, as directed under two DCLs.
- Failure to do this is evidence that the school has been deliberately indifferent to the harassment, which is the legal standard that is applied to an analysis of their actions.
Parents of children who are either on an IEP or a 504 plan can request what is called an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). Under IDEA there is a requirement that the district pay for this IEE. If they do not want to do so, they must request a due process hearing. The district has “criteria” for who can conduct an IEE, but there are specific regulations that state that if there are unique circumstances, the parent can request someone who does not meet this criteria. There is no specific requirement in 504 that requires the district pay for an IEE. But getting someone independent into this situation is likely the only way to get an effective resolution. And a parent can and should request this.
If the district turns down this request, parents can promptly file a discriminatory harassment complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. If a school does not approve a reasonable request for an IEE, given the failure to take the other steps they are required to take, this would be further evidence of deliberate indifference.
To start, I would like to hold a short, no-cost telephone conversation with you. It is my intent to do this pre-screening to determine whether your situation is at a point where my services will be of assistance to you.
I also would like to talk with mental health providers, parent advocates, and others who are providing support to parents whose child is being bullied or harassed.
Please contact me at email@example.com to arrange for this initial conversation.
After this, I will provide directions to a private web page that will provide you with more guidance.
If your child does not have disabilities, but is being bullied or harassed based on other reasons, I can provide assistance. we will have to discuss how to proceed.
My approach to resolution is positively supportive of all students—including those who are being hurtful who may also require better intervention and support. I will seek to help you to require that the school implement positive strategies that support all involved students.
While I cannot guarantee positive results, I am committed to working passionately to address the concerns faced by your child. I will also provide guidance on how to proceed if initial efforts are not successful.
The following documents set forth my background and expertise:
- My professional resume.
- Testimonials from bullying prevention professionals.
- Endorsements from attorneys I have worked with.
- December 2017 Register Guard commentary, A Plan to Address Bullying.
- January 2017 Register Guard commentary, The Bully Myth.
- March 2017 Register Guard commentary, In a world of bullies, kids need help (Note, I would not have chosen this title).
- September, 2018 Register Guard Commentary. Are Our Students Safe? What the data say.
- Positive Parenting
You can also review the other resources on my site to see that I am indeed focused on supporting schools in implementing research-based strategies that will better support all students in fostering positive relations and responding effectively when hurtful incidents do occur.
Lay Advocate ~ Not Legal Services
A well-known practice within the special education field is known as Parent Advocates. I am seeking to serve as an Advocate for parents to address concerns of bullying or harassment of their child. I have not found anyone who has tried to do this, so this is a new venture.
While I am a former attorney, I no longer practice law. I do sometimes work as a trial consultant for other attorneys.
The services I offer are not legal services. While I understand the regulatory requirements under IDEA and the civil rights laws, the primary focus of my guidance will be grounded in effective bullying prevention practices—not legal requirements. If I identify a situation where it would be advisable for a parent to consult with an attorney, I will make an appropriate referral.
Services for Schools or Districts
Oregon school leaders can also request assistance in responding to chronic bullying and harassment situations through investigation, mediation, a restorative conference, or assisting in an IEP/504 meeting in a situation where a student with disabilities is being bullied or engaging in bullying.
I truly believe Oregon’s school leaders and staff do not want to see bullying and harassment occurring in school or online, want to respond effectively, and want all students to feel safe, happy, and successful in school. If a school asks for my assistance for a specific situation, I will seek to engage in coaching to assist key staff in gaining the insight and skills into how they can respond to other situations.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.